November 02, 2019
(CBS, September 10-Decmeber 17, 1977)
Jonathan Harris – Commander Isaac Gampu
Pamelyn Ferdin – Laura Gentry
Ric Carrott – Chris Gentry
Maggie Cooper – Adrian Pryce-Jones
Brian Tochi – Tee Gar Soom
Ty Henderson – Paul Jerome
Eric Greene – Loki
Space Academy was a live-action science fiction show produced by Filmation Associates. Set sometime in the 38th Century, the series was centered on the Space Academy built on an asteroid and established in 3732. It brought together the best and brightest cadets from across the galaxy to study and explore the mysteries of space.
Head of the academy was Commander Isaac Gampu (Jonathan Harris). His countless space explorations had retarded his aging, leaving him well over 300-years-old. He personally oversaw the activities of three student teams: the Red, Gold and Blue Team. The Blue Team, the primary focus of the show, was comprised of siblings Chris (Ric Carrot) and Laura Gentry (Pamelyn Ferdin) who possessed a variety of psychic powers and were co-leaders of the team (initially they were meant to be twins, but the actors’ height difference necessitated the change); Adrian Pryce-Jones (Maggie Cooper), the third-in-command on the team who often worked directly with Gampu and was Chris’ love interest; Paul Jerome (Ty Henderson), a highly-intelligent transferee from the Red Team who was raised on an Earth colony; Tee Gar Soom (Brian Tochi), possessor of superhuman strength and continued the martial arts traditions of his ancestors while incorporating new techniques learned from other planets; and Loki (Eric Greene), a young orphan discovered on a mission who could teleport and see on different spectrums others couldn’t. Offering support was a small robot named Peepo (Erica Scheimer, speaking through a pitch-shifter with regenerative delay).
The series was initially conceived as a radio drama by Allen Ducovny in 1969 while he was a producer for Filmation. When he became the Vice President in charge of children’s programming for CBS, he suggested adapting the idea into a live-action program to producer Lou Scheimer. Production of the show began in early 1977. The Ark II prop from Filmation’s previous series, Ark II, was repurposed as the spaceships commonly used on the series called “Seekers”. Setting the series on an asteroid allowed them to circumvent the expense of trying to duplicate weightlessness, and “invisible force fields” allowed them to traverse inhospitable environments without the need for additional suits. However, production ran down to the wire as when Starlog Magazine writer David Houston visited the set in August, no full episodes or scripts had been completed yet. Only stock special effects and various scenes were finished. This likely led to the early series discrepancy of Loki joining the team in the first episode and being a long-time member in the second, while Soom was a member in the first and just joined in the second.
Nonetheless, Space Academy made its debut on CBS on September 10, 1977. The series was largely similar in structure to Star Trek (on which both Tochi and Ferdin appeared together in an episode), with the added morality lessons and educational content Filmation had become known for; overseen by Dr. Gordon L. Berry from UCLA. The series was written by Samuel A. Peeples, Martha Humphreys, Jack Paritz, Ted Pedersen, Lynn Barker, Susan Dworski, Don Heckman, Marianne Mosner, Peter Packer, Howard Rayfiel, Martin Roth, Robert Specht and Tom Swale, with Arthur Nadel serving as producer and story editor. Horta-Mahana Corp. supplied the sound effects while Ray Ellis (as Yvette Blais) and producer Norm Prescott (as Jeff Michael) composed the music. Space Academy had the distinction of being the most expensive Saturday morning program produced at the time, clocking in at around $150,000 per episode.
The series only lasted a single season of 15 episodes, airing in frequent repeats until September of 1979. To continue making use of the sets and special effects already created, Filmation produced a spin-off called Jason of Star Command, which was said to take place in a special section of the Space Academy. Scheimer kept the Peepo robot prop as one of the rare souvenirs he collected from his programs.
As the show was airing, Aviva Toy Company offered a set of four 8 ½” dolls based on Gampu, Tee Gar Soom, Chris and Loki through F.W. Woolworth, as well as additional adventure outfits for them. In 2007, BCI/Eclipse released the complete series to DVD with uncut, remastered episodes and special features. The following year, they released the series again in a box set along with Jason of Star Command and Ark II.
“The Survivors of Zalon” (9/10/77) – The cadets discover a small boy with powers on a planet due to explode.
“Castaways in Time and Space” (9/17/77) – Chris has to use his mindlink with Laura to find her and Gampu after they’re pulled into a black hole.
“Hide and Seek” (9/24/77) – After the school is saved from an asteroid, members of the team begin to disappear.
“Countdown” (10/1/77) – The cadets are sent to clean up the remnants from a war, and not only does one of the combatants awaken but a mine attaches itself to their ship.
“There’s No Place Like Home” (10/8/77) – An alien bribes Loki with information about his home planet if he’ll help him retrieve a file.
“The Rocks of Janus” (10/15/77) – When the team investigates two comets headed for the school, they discover they are sentient beings and one of them was coming to warn them about the other.
“Monkey Business” (10/22/77) – When a space mirror stops rotating Prof. Bolt and Tee Gar become in danger of freezing, and their would-be rescuers end up no better off.
“The Phantom Planet” (10/29/77) – The team goes to investigate a phantom sighting at an asteroid due for demolition.
“Planet of Fire” (11/5/77) – Tee Gar brings his new instant-freeze invention with him on a mission to test further, not knowing what he froze has since exploded.
“Life Begins at 300” (11/12/77) – And error that almost injures Paul has Gampu considering retirement.
“The Cheat” (11/19/77) – Despite being investigated for safety violations, Cadet Matt Prentiss is sent to contain a leaking reactor on an asteroid with Blue Team to help him.
“My Favorite Marcia” (11/26/77) – When the team answers a distress call from Gampu’s former flame, a rogue robot war machine traps them all in a solar system whose star is about to explode.
“Space Hooky” (12/3/77) – Skipping class leads Loki to being possessed by two energy beings, who go on to possess Paul and Gampu.
“Star Legend” (12/10/77) – Investigating the Alderan Triangle, Blue Team discovers the millennium-old Starship Hope, whose captain has a warning for them.
“Johnny Sunseed” (12/17/77) – Gampu’s technology-phobic brother must work with Peepo when Paul’s genetically-altered food causes mass hallucinations and strange behavior.